Both "Wreck-It-Ralph" and "Flight" opened better than expected (with upbeat audience reaction), despite widespread damage from Hurricane Sandy in the largest population center of the country. Neither film set records, but both scored with their different core demographics, and look set to thrive in upcoming weeks.
Overall, business was up 50% from last weekend's weak Halloween performance, and is up close to 20% from last year.
November is now performing as strong as overperforming October, which delivered three major hits: "Taken 2," "Hotel Transylvania" and "Argo." With the new Bond and "Twlight" films in the offing and the holidays still to come, studios are banking on the last quarter salvaging a lackluster year.
1. Wreck-It Ralph (Buena Vista) NEW – Cinemascore: A; Metacritic score: 73
$49,100,000 in 3,752 theaters; PSA (per screen average): $13,086; Cumulative: $49,100,000
Strong openings for mainstream animated features are commonplace, but this level of performance for a non-sequel in a non-holiday period is still impressive. Aided by 3-D surcharges, this Walt Disney Animated Studio production continues the successful string of that began with "Tangled" and smaller-scale "Winnie the Pooh." The company continues to thrive with output from always-reliable Pixar
This is not the biggest animated opening for November or even pre-Thanksgiving. "Madagascar 2" (not 3-D) opened to $63 million four years ago, boosted by the success of the first entry. Disney is cheering that male-targeted "Wreck-It-Ralph" opened at the same level as Thanksgiving release "Tangled" (also not 3-D).
Atypically, director Rich Moore made his name in non-Disney projects before taking on this film, earning Emmys for "The Simpsons" and "Futurama." Disney has traditionally developed its own creative team. Producer Clark Spencer is more homegrown — he previously oversaw "Lilo and Stitch," "Bolt" and "Winnie the Pooh" for Disney.
What comes next: Assuming continued good word of mouth, this should thrive for several weeks, with a big push at Thanksgiving. Expect more franchise wreckage ahead.
2. Flight (Paramount) NEW – Cinemascore: A-; Metacritic score: 76
$25,010,000 in 1,884 theaters; PSA: $13,263; Cumulative: $25,010,000
An initial success by any standard, "Flight" looks poised to settle in for a lengthy run. With a PSA (unaided by 3-D surcharges) better than "Wreck-It Ralph," playing at fewer than 2,000 theaters initially, and appealing mainly to primarily an adult audience. With a modest production budget of $31 million, the film from director Robert Zemeckis and star Denzel Washington proves that both continue to be among the most reliable draws in the business.
This marks Zemeckis's eighth consecutive opening over $20 million (with five previous films, when adjusted for inflation, also above or near that level). All but one ended up over $100 million. Washington boasts three bigger (unadjusted) openings, including "Safe House" at $40 million earlier this year, but all of these opened at over 3,000 theaters and had wider initial appeal.
The impressive "Argo," an even more acclaimed adult-oriented drama, opened at more than $5 million less on 1,250 more screens. "Flight"'s PSA is more than double that of "Argo."
Zemeckis' last live-action film was 2000's "Cast Away," starring Tom Hanks. Opening Christmas weekend, "Cast Away" grossed almost $29 million on its way to $233 million (again with lower ticket prices). It was sustained by the holidays and enthusiastic audience reaction, but also a higher print count from the start. "Flight" might not get to that level, but is poised to benefit from strong audience response as it broadens out.
What comes next: Although several still-to-open films are riding on more Oscar buzz overall, the consensus acclaim for Washington's performance could push this box office hit toward wider awards contention. So far Zemeckis has only enjoyed one Oscar breakout — "Forrest Gump."
3. Argo (Warner Brothers) Week 4 – Last Weekend: #1
$10,245,000 (-15%) in 2,774 theaters (-81); PSA: $3,761; Cumulative: $75,896,000
Another outstanding hold, down a minimal 15% in its fourth weekend. While this opened below the levels of Ben Affleck's earlier film "The Town" and David Fincher's successful "The Social Network," after this weekend it now is substantially ahead of both at the same point in its release.
What comes next: This weekend confirms that "Argo" is on its way to grossing over $100 million even before its awards boost kicks in. This is major hit still has a long way to go.
4. The Man With the Iron Fists (Universal) NEW – Cinemascore: C+; Metacritic score: 53
$8,200,000 in 1,868 theaters; PSA: $4,400; Cumulative: $8,200,000
Hip-hopper RZA made his directorial debut with this US/Hong Kong martial arts hybrid, presented by Quentin Tarantino, co-written by Eli Roth and featuring the eclectic casting of Cung Le, Russell Crowe and Lucy Liu, all resulting in a so-so gross. Audience reaction seems to be mixed, with Saturday falling from opening day.
What comes next: With a $15 million budget, worldwide interest could make up the difference, but this won't last long at US theaters.
5. Taken 2 (20th Century-Fox) Week 5 – Last Weekend: #6
$6,000,000 (-22%) in 2,639 theaters (-356); PSA: $2,274; Cumulative: $125,667,000
Just like its predecessor, this "Taken" entry is holding way better than normal for an action film. Despite some loss of theaters, its position rose one notch.
What comes next: Though it didn't appear likely at first, this now has a real shot of equalling the domestic gross of "Taken" ($145 million).
6. Cloud Atlas (Warner Brothers) Week 2 – Last Weekend: #2
$5,250,000 (-45%) in 2,013 theaters (+5); PSA: $2,674; Cumulative: $18,262,000
Not an encouraging holdover for this expensive sci-fi epic, which started off below expectations and looks like its appeal is not spreading beyond an enthusiastic core of supporters.
What comes next: International – still to come – is the only hope for making a dent in the high cost of this effort.
7. Hotel Transylvania (Sony) Week 6 – Last Weekend: #3
$4,500,000 (-52%) in 2,922 theaters (-354); PSA: $1,540; Cumulative: $137,568,000
With Halloween over and "Wreck-It Ralph" opening, this very successful Sony Animation entry finally came down to earth.
What comes next: Minor matinee business, otherwise nearly done.
8. Paranormal Activity 4 (Paramount) Week 3 – Last Weekend: #4
$4,300,000 (-49%) in 3,006 theaters (- 406); PSA: $1,430; Cumulative: $49,577,000
Also suffering the post-Halloween blahs, it still managed to add to the already profitable returns it achieved initially.
What comes next: More paranormal activity is likely with the very low cost of these films.
9. Here Comes the Boom (Sony) Week 4 – Last Weekend: #7
$3,600,000 (-31%) in 2,314 theaters (-177); PSA: $1,556; Cumulative: $35,572,000
Kevin James' fans are keeping this alive longer than expected after its weak opening.
What comes next: With Sony opening "Skyfall" this week, they won't push too hard to keep this going.
10. Silent Hill: Revelation (Open Road) Week 2 – Last Weekend: #5
$3,300,000 (-59%) in 2,933 theaters (no change); PSA: $1,125; Cumulative: $13,900,000
Steep falloff after a disappointing opening.
What comes next: Further revelations not likely.